Why Going Local Is Best for the Moment

As I write this, I’m on a plane aching to get home to my little guy, so take this travelogue with a grain (or several) of salt. 

It will be a rare thing for me to write about traveling, because we don’t take vacations very often. And when it comes to business trips, my new normal is to get in and get out as quickly as possible (for said reason above).

Either way, I find the best moments while traveling occur when we seek out local experiences without overplanning ahead of time.

When it comes to vacation, my main pre-planning involves accommodations that are as close to “home” as possible (or a step up with points!) and reducing the stress of getting there. Other than that, the best laid plans are no plans until we arrive.

In Nashville, we lucked out staying at an AirBnB that reminded me so much of the early 1900s home that we had renovated in Midtown. The owners easily could have passed for our Nashville body doubles.


Even if we go the hotel route, neighborhoods are a great place to start. I like to stay in a walkable neighborhood whenever possible. So we can grab coffee or dinner without making reservations – especially helpful when we first get to town. 

The first day for us typically involves relaxing, attempting to unplug, and walking around to get our footing. After a day or two of doing very little, then we start making plans.

I also like exploring other neighborhoods where we’re not necessarily staying, by foot, as well. We found the downtown Nashville area to be too touristy, so we explored other neighborhoods like Germantown, Music Row and towns like Franklin and found them to be just what the doctor ordered. 


I had a blissful moment in this adorable Germantown coffee and chocolate shop, Tempered, waiting for my almond milk latte while we scouted out brunch spots nearby.

Finding great local restaurants is another activity best held until we arrive in town. Between Yelp, Instagram, recommendations from Lyft drivers and hotel/AirBnB hosts, we can usually get a sense of what the most popular  spots are with the locals.

From there, we only make reservations for the can’t-miss dinners. Otherwise it will depend on what neighborhood we end up in and what we’re hungry for.

In Nashville, the stars aligned with the following spots:



Pharmacy Burger had the most amazing farm burger with an egg on it, and local craft beer garden. We were able to avoid waiting in line because a Lyft driver told us about the No Wait app, where you essentially reserve a place in line.


After a sweaty ride on an on-off bus, we developed a craving for oysters. Through a combination of Google Maps, Open Table and Yelp, we found a quirky spot, South Street, near Music Row. Their giant Gulf oysters and bottomless fountain drinks hit the spot!


Somehow we mustered the appetite for dinner that evening, and thank goodness we did because Butcher and Bee turned out the be our favorite meal in Nashville.


No trip to the South (or any part of the globe, in my book) would be complete without mac & cheese. Our day trip to Franklin gave us an opportunity to try Puckett Grocery, which we had heard was the place to get an authentic Nashville experience.


Franklin was also home to the most adorable shop full of American made products, White’s Mercantile, perhaps named after the gorgeous white brick storefronts that lined its streets. I could have spent hours in there!


The last clandestine meal was the result of searching Google Maps for a coffee shop we could swing by on the way back from returning our rental car. Yeast Bakery came through big time, both for great coffee and amazing savory pastries, including their famous Czech kolaches.

This formula has worked for all kinds of destinations, from big cities to beaches. It also helped me stay in the moment and enjoy much-needed vacation, since homesickness crept up much more this time around.
The good news is after writing this, I’m now two hours closer to touching down!

What are some ways you find the best local spots while traveling?

Most Memorable Dining Experiences of 2012

How apropos that this is my 200th post. We’ve come a long way baby! Here’s what my taste buds remember from the past year…

Pigging out at Hog & Rocks, Atlas Cafe, Stable and Salumeria in the Mission

Ham Tasting Plate @ Hog & Rocks

Mortadella Sandwich @ Salumeria

Fig Goat Cheese Panini @ Stable Cafe

The food trucks and general deliciousness at SXSW

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Hanging out in Alice Waters’ craftsman, aka Chez Panisse

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Avocado And Beet Salad @ Chez Panisse

Life-changing popovers, lobster and last call for California foie gras at Wayfare Tavern

Chilled Maine Lobster @ wayfare tavern

Breakfast, lunch and after-dinner coffee and madeleines on the beach at Baoase in Curacao

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Looking forward to seeing what lands on my plate in 2013! What were your most memorable meals of the year?

Around the World in 11 Plates

To say I’ve lived a nomadic lifestyle over the past 2 months would be an understatement. But the silver lining of traveling more than I’ve been at home is the plethora of amazing dishes that inspire future kitchen endeavors. Here’s my world tour, also captured on FoodSpotting for fellow foodie paparazzi.

Chapter 1 – I Left My Sandwich in San Francisco

Mortadella Sandwich @ Salumeria

Mortadella Sandwich at Salumeria in San Francisco’s Mission District. Love the seasonal menu and “urban rustic” salvaged wood tables and decor. They also have locally produced bread, cured meats and gourmet goodies for purchase.

Turkey Sandwich With Bacon, Cheddar, Sundried Tomatoes And Dijon @ Chevron

No joke, this Turkey Sandwich With Bacon, Cheddar, Sundried Tomatoes and Dijon comes from a gas station! Tower Car Wash on the corner of Mission and Van Ness in San Francisco.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich @ Local: Mission Eatery

My last San Francisco sandwich comes from Local Mission Eatery. While the grilled cheese was delightful, I can’t say enough about the intimate environment with a laser focus on local, curated by a very thoughtful executive chef and pastry chef 😉

Pub Reuben @ Squaters Pub
Last but not least, if you ever find yourself in the Salt Lake City airport craving a beer, have no fear. Squatter’s Pub will take care of you. Paired with a Chasing Tail Golden Ale, this Pub Reuben was delightful during my long layover.

Chapter 2 – J’aime Paris

Saute Seau De Marengo Tagliatelle @ Bouillon Racine

It’s no secret that I love shredded meat on pasta. But I was pleasantly surprised to find such a combination in an Art Nouveau original, Bouillon Racine. The Saute Seau de Marengo Tagliatelle… je meurs!

Chicken @ Atelier Maître Albert

I wasn’t expecting to taste Thanksgiving while abroad, but that was the collective sense when we feasted on this lovely chicken at Atelier Maitre Albert. And along with Bouillon Racine, it helped seal St. Germain as my new favorite neighborhood in Paris.

Couscous Monaco @ Exki Cafe Terminal 2E

Leave it to the Parisians to serve delightful food at the airport. This Couscous Monaco from the Exki Cafe featured smoked salmon, cucumbers, raisins and dill. Ideal for easing into a long transcontinental flight home.

Chapter 3 – Seafood in the Desert

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If you blink you might miss Adele’s while driving through downtown Carson City. But once inside, you’re greeted by a cozy fireplace and Victorian decor. The menu doesn’t disappoint, and everything’s made from scratch using local, sustainable, organic ingredients. I enjoyed the House Dry Smoked Salmon Crepe with Chèvre and Fresh Dill.

Whole Wheat Pomodoro @ The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

When you’re on the road and in meetings all day, there’s nothing better than room service while you rest your feet. Even better if it doesn’t taste like a plate of pure sodium. Such was the case at Scottsdale’s Westin Kierland Resort, where I dined on this hearty Whole Wheat Pomodoro with Shrimp.

Smoked Salmon Bruschetta @ The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

This generous serving of Smoked Salmon Bruschetta at the Westin’s Rim Lobby Lounge helped me prepare for a long night of networking over cocktails.

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It doesn’t get better than being served delicious Fish Tacos poolside at the Hotel Viceroy in Palm Springs. Unless you count the sliders and mini mac & cheese served at Karie & Joe’s wedding reception. Devoured too fast for a photo!

And now, lots of Sacramento foodie adventures await…

Meal ‘n Steal: $5 Banh Mi Sandwich

Today I was introduced to a whole new world inside of Duc Loi Supermarket in the Mission. They carry all kinds of local produce, organic products and wine, for a fraction of the price of fancier gourmet shops. But what we really came for was the Banh Mi Sandwich from the deli counter. At just $5 a pop, you get an entire meal in one sandwich – and bite by bite, it lived up to its rep.

Banh Mi Sandwich  @ Duc Loi Supermarket

So what’s in a Banh Mi sandwich? Five kinds of meat: pork pot roast, liverwurst, pork roll, head cheese and pork belly. But here’s the kicker, all that rich protein is balanced with carrots, jicama, cilantro, cucumber, daikon, and jalapeno – served on French bread.

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Oh, and I walked out with a bunch of green onions for $0.49. Can you think of anything that costs less than a $1 at the grocery store? Me neither. Consider me a convert!

Meal ‘n Steal: $5 Arugula, Peach and Goat Cheese Salad

A $5 salad might not seem like a steal, but unlike it’s wimpier counterparts, this bowl full of wild rocket arugula, Cypress Grove goat cheese, sliced almonds and fresh peaches will actually fill you up. (There’s nothing worse than saving a buck and being hungry afterwards.)

Wild Rocket Arugula, White Peach, Cypress Grove Goat Cheese, Toasted Almonds @ Bair Island Tap & Eatery

If you’re not able to make it to Bair Island Tap & Eatery in San Carlos, you could easily make your own hearty version at home. In general, I’ve discovered goat cheese really coats dishes (and your stomach) well. And you can’t go wrong with nuts, dark leafy greens and tree fruit in any combination.

Keystone is for Meat Lovers

Last weekend I had the pleasure of sampling some of Keystone Resort‘s finest cuisine. The anticipation built as we rode two gondolas up 11,000 feet, not without a glass of champagne and a cookie. (The very same cookies are provided to guests at check-in.)

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Pictured above: me in hog heaven

While a variety of meat-centric dishes were on display, the dessert tent ultimately stole the show. What kind of dessert requires a special tent, you ask? Why meat-shaped dessert, of course.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, anyone? The magical confections above were created by Executive Chef David Scott and Executive Pastry Chef Ned Archibald.

Despite the tempting placement of the dessert tent at the entrance, we did begin our evening with more appropriate food groups.

For starters, Beano’s Cabin knocked my socks off with their “Suckling Berkshire Pig Ragout with House Made Pappardelle Pasta and Peach Preserves.” Unbelievable. You could have stopped at house made pappardelle, but every other ingredient was equally delicious.

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And yes, I did make sure “Beano” had nothing to do with the over-the-counter variation (it was a merely a nickname for the owner).

Also notheworthy, “Cider and Molasses Braised Wild Boar Shoulder, Creamy Parmesan White Polenta, Forest Mushrooms and Sauce Naturel from the uber cool named Alpenglow Stube.

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Brownie points for serving in style goes to The 10th for their “House Cured Pastrami, Onion Jam and Fennel Brioche” and “Spicy Rosen Lamb Chili with Anasazi Beans, Smoked Green Chilies and Local Goats Cheese.”

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Vegetarian respite was provided by Sevens, with their “Roma Tomato Confit, Asparagus Tofu Custard, and Red Pepper Romesco.”

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But the true chest-thumping, meat-loving, throw-caution-to-the-wind carnivores would appreciate “Duck Confit Stuffed Tenderloin of Beef, Foie Gras Torchon and Red Currant Demi Glace” from The Bighorn Steakhouse. I can hear Anthony Bourdain now, “oh yeah.”

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LA Food Scene

It’s about time I raved about the LA gems where we gorged ourselves over President’s Day weekend. I’ll admit, the Bay Area has turned me into a local, seasonal, sustainable food snob. But our southern neighbors are staying up to snuff.

I was most blown away by breakfast at M.B. Post in Manhattan Beach. I mean get a load of these sticky buns, honestly! Also pictured: eggs Benedict, bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits (severely addictive), and Frittata.

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Eggs Benedict @ Manhattan Beach Post Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits with Maple Butter @ Manhattan Beach Post Fritatta @ Manhattan Beach Post

For a piece of New York in Downtown LA, I highly recommend Artisan House. With the adjoining gourmet market, I felt like I had stepped back into Eataly. But with a Prohibition-era twist. My favorite part of the meal was the table-side cocktail service, where we could choose from multiple Champagnes and liqueurs like Cassis and Elderflower, and the drinks were concocted right there.

Speaking of speakeasies, we snuck in for an after dinner drink next door at The Association. Hipster mixologists work hard shaking, chopping and peeling their way to refreshing, retro and dainty cocktails. Another NYC deja vu.

And if you find yourself on an afternoon beer crawl in Venice Beach, you can soak up those suds with a Bavarian pretzel at On the Waterfront Cafe, or a fireside pizza at Larry’s (where they have an endless beer menu – there’s literally something for everyone).

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For an incredible view, I highly recommend a drink on the bluff at Nelson’s at the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes. Oh and I can’t forget my girlfriends turned my on to a truffle salami from Bristol Farms. I could eat an entire log – thinly sliced, of course.

Ode to San Carlos

I’m loving San Carlos, which is the closest “downtown” to us and actually has some decent restaurants. Last night we kicked off our evening at Bair Island Tap & Eatery, which serves craft brew and food sourced from within 100 miles (think 4505 Meats).The philosophy reminds me a lot of Local Mission Eatery, but it has more of a mini brewery vibe, serving up sausages and sandwiches mostly.

We also bellied up to the bar at Cask Wine & Cheese Bar, for some Cava, beer on tap, Marcona almonds and Mediterranean-style green olives. Come to find out, they serve dinner off Spasso‘s menu, and will literally cross the street to bring you the goods. I enjoyed my Capellini, and David’s mushroom burger went down easy.

Cappellini @ the cask wine & cheese bar Mushroom burger @ the cask wine & cheese bar

But the biggest surprise to date were the “donuts to die for” at Piacere a few weeks ago. Made to order and filled with apricot deliciousness. More cream puff than donut, but who’s counting?

Jelly Doughnuts Made To Order @ Piacere Ristorante

The salmon crepe was also delicious, with a light butter and wine sauce.
Salmon crepes @ Piacere Ristorante

We’ve also become fans of Friday night deliveries from the San Carlos location of New York Pizza. But the real dining adventures await on Laurel Street.

Memories of NOLA

In honor of the upcoming IFBC, I’m retracing our steps through NOLA in 2009, and the delicious meals we shared with our dear foodie friends Johnnie and Melinda.

We started the journey to JazzFest at Bourbon House, indulging in generously sized gulf oysters and Abita Beer.

Melinda at Bourbon House Abita Light at Bourbon House

A short walk from our rental in the Warehouse District, we dined al fresco at Herbsaint and shared lots of laughs. The decor was just as delightful as the food.
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Nothing says vacation like endless Mimosas on a Friday morning, which we enjoyed while waiting in line at Mother’s. The cheesy grits and authentic Soul Food ambience were well worth the build up.
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Our Friday food crawl continued with l’escargot at Pelican Club, in an alley graced with my favorite NOLA artist, Michalopoulos.
Michalopoulos Gallery L'escargot

…and a memorable bar-side meal at NOLA, where I indulged in two of my favorite things: champagne and macaroni & cheese. Emeril now shares a special place in my stomach. 😉

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It was an incredible run of fine local dining, topped off at Cochon and Commander’s Palace. I would return in a heartbeat (after properly training my stomach first)!

Beg, Borrow and Meal

If this succulent roasted chicken was half eaten at the end of your meal, you’d take it home and cook with it, wouldn’t you? No shame in this game!

Half Roasted Chicken @ Los Gatos Brewing Co

It’s perfect as shredded chicken for salad, tacos, burritos, soup, etc. I made chicken salad with shredded carrots, orange zest and olive oil.

Also on the menu? Couscous cakes using leftover couscous and a recipe from Everyday Food. Basically, you mix the leftover couscous with an egg, any herbs you like, and fry them in oil on each side until crispy. Dipping sauce is a must!